Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship

by Reach Out NGO
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Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Violet
Violet

Dear donors,

Between March and April 2018 we added 33 new girls into the program. This report will talk about the first follow-up. That is the first visits we do 1 week after having disbursed the first grants (54$) to the girls’ business sites and households. This report threatens to be very long, so I’ll split into 2 or 3 parts, but by the time we are done you will know much more about the girls we have helped thanks to you, and about how we do it.

PART 1.

30th of March, 8.45, 2 staff of REO arrive Tole after a motorbike ride through the tea plantation.

It’s Friday, and it’s market in Tole, so we start there. We have a list of girls that just received support and we want to check if they have started their businesses. We don’t really expect all of them to be active by now, it’s been only one week, but we want to take note of who is already in business and who is not, and also put a bit of pressure on those who are not.

Tole market starts as early as 4.00 o’clock because traders come to buy cheap fruits and vegetables and sell in Douala. By 10 it’s closed, but we are still on time to see it booming.

The first participant to see us is Esther, who is selling clothes with Lizette, also close to Akenji. Esther has been with us since 2013. “I hear you people are now doing savings too? That might be your best idea so far” (She confirmed her opinion by saving 17$ with us the week after).

We don’t ask for their business records, because participants have a particular day of the month when they are expected to meet us all at once and show the records. This was a very simple innovation that one of our new staff, Sylvie, brought and it has helped us save a lot of time and keep much better track of everybody’s situation. The reason we are asking business records of the new ones is that it’s very common to make mistakes on the first attempts, and we want to correct them early.

We ask them some of the names on the list to see if they can help us locate them in the market. Before they can answer somebody calls our attention.

It’s Violet, one of the new girls. She’s just behind them selling t-shirts. She has recorded, perfectly, three days of sales in different markets. No correction is made and we just ask some questions about the business. Actually, she was not supposed to be selling clothes but was planning to buy and sell garri (a by-product of cassava). "I looked at it again and the capital was not enough for that yet, considering the transport costs I will not make any profit". She is doing well with the clothes and within her first month she will go on to make 71 dollars. Which is already bigger than the business grant we gave her.

Next, we see Urslar. Urslar had stopped business for the last two months after giving birth. She asked for a loan with us in February, and she used it to re-start business with a capital push. You can see her in the project video receiving the loan.  We just remind her of her payment time and confirm that her little spot in the market is looking bigger than ever.

We then see Patience and Melvis, new participants, selling one in front of the other. Both of them are a bit older than our normal participant. (31 and 34). This year we had agreed to increase the age of eligibility after a lot of feedback from the community asking us for it.

Patience is selling palm oil. She has not used all the money of the grant to start her business, but only half of it. That is very normal. She will be adding more money if she has established that there is a solid market and she can make profits with it. Even though she had first used only half of the capital, she will still go on to make 61 dollars, more than what we gave her, after her first month.

Melvis has brought her book to the market and I’m impressed. She is semi-literate and struggled a lot during training, but she finally got it. It’s simple, but what she has works fine. There is something else, though. One day after receiving our grant she got involved in a problem with another trader. She sells vegetables and was supplied with a harvest of unlawful origin without knowing. When it was discovered she had to give it back and pay a fine to the local authority. The money lost was, roughly, the value of our business grant. She is doing business now on loan. She gets the product in the morning and pays back for it in the evening. We feel for her, but she is an experienced businesswoman and she will be fine. At least our grant helped her avoid a worse situation. “Just keep doing what you are doing, if we see a business running for 3 months, you will qualify for the next grant just like the rest.” With all her problems, Melvis made 75$ on her first month with us anyway. 

That’s it for the market, those were the easy ones. We look at our list again. We need to start going to their houses and business places within Tole. We draw a map and try to walk in some kind of a circle. We start with the most far away people, those of “Tole Weeding”. Tole is a community around a tea plantation that has grown a lot in the last years, as more and more people come attracted by the very cheap housing and the proximity to the urban centers.

We visit Solange and Enanga, our youngest participants, but can’t see either for different reasons (Enanga has gone to collect a small stipend the father of her child sends her, Solange is working by the road). Then we call Modestine. Modestine lives with her husband and does not have a phone, we call the husband who is around and directs us to her house after a long walk. We sit with the couple and their 3 children and look at her records. She also struggles a lot with writing so we try to make it easier for her. Another change of business. She has decided to do bobolo (a by-product of cassava) and groundnut paste (peanut butter, but hot). That is alright, but she does not seem to have spent much of the business grant for it, as that is a business that can be done with very little resources (less than one-third of the grant).

Later, both of us (Reach Out staff) will agree it’s possible she has given the money to the husband (willfully or not). During the meeting, without being confrontational, we just emphasize that we need to see all the money being spent in a business and that this will make her qualify for a bigger grant after 3 months. It’s important to make the husband also understand this, so he gets behind the process. We take note of the possible conflict and will be carefully monitoring her. Whatever the case, we are very happy to have helped Modestine, she might be one of the most vulnerable women we have helped so far (in our database, she was the first among 129), and she is incredibly grateful for the opportunity. (Far from being fine now, but by the end of April she had doubled her small business capital, now she’s using roughly half of the grant. Also, her business records were OK).

On the 30th of March we saw a total of 14 of the new girls, so far we have only talked about 4! We will update you next month with the rest of the girls, and like today, we will complement also with updates on their present situation.

Thank you very much for helping them and for believing in us!

 

P.D: Until the 13th of May, if you sign up for a recurring donation GlobalGiving gives us a one-time 100% bonus on it! (If you sign up to give 25 dollars every month, they will add another 25 dollars for the first donation, after you have been giving for 4 months).

Urslar
Urslar
Melvis
Melvis
Modestine
Modestine
Speech from Sylvie before disbursement - 20thMarch
Speech from Sylvie before disbursement - 20thMarch
The 19 girls supported in March - Thank You!
The 19 girls supported in March - Thank You!

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New Participant: Solange
New Participant: Solange

Dear donors.

We spent February and part of March identifying and selecting new participants for the program. 129 women applied. In late March we began helping the first 18, this April, June, and August we will expand with another set of 20 each.

Choosing was hard. It was hard because it’s always hard for us to see so many people in need and take decisions on who will be helped or not. Roughly 80%-90% of the 129 could qualify for the program. Moreover, we had never attempted before in the program an identification process of this scale. We had to build a more refined selection system that is fair, helps us select those most in need and protects us from fraud.

We began by going to the community and getting a list of vulnerable women. The Chiefdom, the Women Groups, the local Health Center and the churches all gave their inputs. But we also carried out door-to-door identification to ensure we were getting everybody. After, we moved to 1-on-1 interviews and home visits. We collect information on the family members, occupations and the assets and conditions of the house.

We have now an updated database with 129 girls and growing. From now on, when we train, check businesses or visit participants in their houses, we keep identification forms with us. This way we are ready to interview any girl that shows interest on the spot and never lose her. This is important as many of the most vulnerable don't have phones. 

We were trying to answer the question, with our increased budget thanks to growing support, should we expand out of Tole? The answer is not yet. There are more than enough women and girls living in extreme poverty we have not yet touched. Expanding will increase logistical costs and reduce the total number of women assisted. But if we keep growing at the same rate we should be expanding next year.

It was quite a bit of work. But we are happy to do it and help you help those most in need. Your impact will be higher on every person that we find living on 16 dollars a month, instead of say, 50 or 75. So we try to be thorough.

By the time you read this, some of the 18 new girls have already started changing their lives. They have found an occupation, some income for themselves and might have already improved in their feeding. But more important, for the first time in a long while, they look at the future and they see a reason for hope. Some have even started saving with us!

I have to inform you of another great opportunity with GlobalGiving. Today, starting right now and until the 13th of April, the Little By Little Campaign is running. Small (50$ or less) donations have a 50% bonus, and new recurring (monthly) donations a 100% bonus!! Please share and consider a small donation! There’s no better day than today!

One last thing, when we produced our project video we had a lot of footage we did not use. We decided to take some time to translate these longer interviews and put them on youtube. We have also accompanied them with data on each girl in some blog posts in our website. You might enjoy checking out Joy, I’ve updated her blog post with the latest data of February and March.

Next month you will get to know your new girls! 

Remember, today little is more, any donation up to 50$ will grow 50%, any registration for a monthly donation will grow 100% (until 200$). Combined, if you sign for 20$ today, we will get an extra 30!!

Have a great day

1. Receiving Applicant girls
1. Receiving Applicant girls
2. Pre-interview
2. Pre-interview
4 applicant girls leading us to their houses
4 applicant girls leading us to their houses
3. second interview and household visit
3. second interview and household visit
New Participant: Modestine
New Participant: Modestine
Joy checking out her video on youtube
Joy checking out her video on youtube
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Dear Friends,

Thanks for your invaluable support. Today is International Women’s Day and any donation to this project will have a 30% bonus up to $250. If you give 10 dollars, we will get 13! This campaign runs throughout the day.

Since last report, we have given out 15 second-level grants and 9 small loans, received more than 100 applications for the program and conducted social inquiries. We also did a video of the project! You can check it out here.

You will get details on the second part (application and social inquiries) in the next report. For now, we want to focus on the exchange session that took part in late January.

This was the structure:

  • Officially announcing our plans for the year, how many women we are going to help (80 new, up to 47 “old”), what kind of programs would be available to them (1 grant a year and loans at their request, no health insurance again), what we were expecting from them. (keep doing business, keep your book up to date)
  • Do some exercises on entrepreneurship: One on challenges of their business and solutions and another one on mapping out business opportunities.
  • Refresher session on Sexual Reproductive Health
  • Disbursement of grants and loans

I’m proud to say this was our first training/exchange sessions completely organized by our new volunteers, Sylvie and Emma, who have now been with us for almost a year and are retained as staff. I was happily relegated back to the role of cameraman.

Some highlights:

“-Sometimes you see money passing but you don’t feel it – When you have more you spend more too” Mabel

“-It’s hard to keep customers happy and have good profits, if I increase my profits they complaint about the size, if I increase the size I can’t charge more” Cecil

“The most important thing is to be stable, consistent. Sometimes you are like you want to go to the farm or just sleep, but you need to be stable, because you will win the clients of all of those who are not stable.” Lizette

“You need to hold your costumer, pet your costumer” Judith.

The session about Sexual Reproductive Health had a different tone (I was the only male so I went for a walk while this was happening), common doubts about pregnancy tests and contraceptives were discussed, as well as cases of non-consensual sex. Let’s leave this quotes anonymous.

“Sometimes he would come drunk and not even notify me that he wants to do something, he just starts.”

“See you need to educate your man, put limits. If he comes drunk to my house he sleeps in the couch. I don’t have sex with you when you drink”

“You should be very careful, don’t allow men to abuse you, we are the ones that feel more pain so let them hold on”

We did not have such kind of interventions before and is good to see how, with time, they are not only economically empowered but also build their self-esteem to stand up to men and to talk about it. That’s why long-term support is so important. That’s why your support is so important!

After the session we ate together and were called for a short disbursement meeting in the Chief’s Palace next day.

Why are we giving these grants:

These are women who have been managed to consistently stay in business for more than a year (1-3). Some have improved a lot in their monthly incomes while some others have been affected by different problems but maintained the business against all odds. We want to provide: 1) Stability (something they really lack) and regular incentives (something to keep pushing for). So we try to set up regular rounds of grants for past beneficiaries and we condition them to being able to keep the business afloat.

We don’t give more money to those who do better again, but we have started giving out loans. We gave the first 5 this same day so some girls went home with 110,000 francs, (more than 200$) 50 of a grant and 60 of a loan. Loans are expected to grow in size as they build a good backgroudn (60,120,180,240) While the grants provide stability and an incentive for all, the purpose of the loans is to help those who are really booming go further and take decisive steps to come out of poverty in the next 18 months. We raise funds for this loans in a separate project (this is the second round!). Since January others have been asking and we have given already 9 loans in total.

Thanks so Much! Without you we could not have done anything. Remember, it’s women’s day! 30% bonus! Give and share as much as you can! Also, if you miss the campaign, we are competing for a position in the Girl Fund and we need to have a great number of single donations from the first to the 15th of March to make it among the first 4 projects out of 164!! This is the least competition we'll ever have, so today is the day to give! 

distribution of condoms during sexual health talk
distribution of condoms during sexual health talk
Disbursement - Chief's Palace
Disbursement - Chief's Palace
Mabel - sells bananas and trains to be a tailor.
Mabel - sells bananas and trains to be a tailor.
Marie trades farming products
Marie trades farming products
Prenet discussing with one of our staff (Jackie)
Prenet discussing with one of our staff (Jackie)

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Blanche
Blanche

Dear Donors,

Happy New Year and thanks so much for the many contributions you did this December,

Last week we received an e-mail from GlobalGiving saying we have been selected for the Project of the Month Club! We have been selected because of your relentless support, which gives us legitimacy. Because of this great initiative, we just doubled our budget. Throughout 2018, we are going to help 127 women. 

We have started January catching-up with the girls and their businesses, and we plan to end it helping roughly 20 of the “old” girls (those who were first helped in 2016 or before). This February we will start a thorough identification process to try to answer a very important question: 

Is it time to expand?

This February we want to know every woman of Tole aged 18 to 35 and who is living under poverty. Depending on the number, we will decide if it’s time to find another community (we have 4 possible locations) to replicate our methodology, or if we still have too much work to do in Tole.

Some highlights from the girls:

Blanche finally got enough money to start her dream business, a fashion store. It was moving to see her capital grow every month of 2017 (December 2016, 170 $, March 2017, 230$, June, 405$, October 2017, 700$). She did not make more profit than other girls, she just managed to save an unusual amount of money every month.

Prenet has stablished as a trader in Douala, the biggest city of Cameroon. She buys from Tole farmers and travels a long distance to sell at better prices. She is really good at it, we have seen other girls making attempts at this and failing (read down), since prices in Douala fluctuate so much as the market changes very rapidly. Her profits are at top 1% levels, with more than 200 dollars per month.

That’s Elizabeth’s territory, you might remember her from our August Report. After she received a bigger grant this November she has not gone down from 200$ a month. She is still focused on her sandwich business but used her increased capital to buy more products in bulk and increase her profit.

Gladys, who had been selling banana, started a business with her husband. A motorbike spare-part shop with a capital of roughly 1000 dollars! She is still selling the banana to keep her independent income “Even if I wanted I could not drop it, farmers come to drop the bananas at my door every morning”.

Not everybody has good news.

Some, like Ernestine are struggling after a bad sale of a tomato she planted to sell in Douala but when she reached there the prices had dropped. We don’t have any doubt she will recover, she is a very strong multi-entrepreneur involved in many things. 

After an unwanted pregnancy and the sad death of her mother, Elekta’s situation went down again, luckily she managed to re-start the business as soon as the baby grew a bit. We teach family planning and we try to protect girls like Elekta from economic downfalls, but we can’t expect to control everything, we can only try to keep learning, don’t judge and respect the rules we have with the community. She has made good efforts and will surely be among the girls supported this month, she also has a healthy beautiful baby.

Thanks so much for being there. You have given us legitimacy when nobody else would, and now your support is reaping fruits. This 2018 we are going to help as many girls as we ever helped in the whole history of the program!

Thanks again!

Jacinta has been the first to ask for a loan.
Jacinta has been the first to ask for a loan.
Valerie "The business helps me when I'm alone"
Valerie "The business helps me when I'm alone"
Prenet
Prenet
Elekta with her child
Elekta with her child

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Thank you!
Thank you!

Dear Donors,

As discussed on last report, this November we had a discussion about the challenges of the girls' businesses,  the ways to overcome them and what they have learned so far.These are some of the quotes we have from that day.

“I learned bookkeeping, I entered a meeting to save, I play akwao.”  Sabella[daily savings practice]

“I learned how to save. Every closing day I keep 2000, take 1000 to eat” Mabel

“Before I was misusing money, now I don´t, I separate it and keep for my business.” Sally

“Now I don´t spend, highest I can take for a day is 500 francs” Jacinta [This is under a dollar a day, and she grew her business at an amazing speed.]

“Bookkeeping helps you know you don´t work in vain, you see the amount you need to continue, you see whether you win or you lose. I can remember everything up to one week, but after if I don´t take note I will forget. At the end of the month you look at it and know you really tried. “

[You have been with us for long, allow us to keep some quotes in the original, but very simple, Pidgin English:]

“Yesterday I don rise. Tomorrow I don fall. Business rise and falls.”  Gillian

“Market get one time when profit is huge, other times it depends”  Joy

[You got it right?]

“Love the business, no matter what you do. Today you can rise and tomorrow you can fall.” Esther [Not the first time we hear this. They are working in very unstable economic environments! And yet again, this would still be true in any part of the world, that´s just the way business is.]

 “It´s not all advice that you should follow. People give you bad advice, particularly those in the same business than you” Priscilia

“Items are expensive, transport is more expensive because of the crisis” Enanga

 “During this crisis I make more money, things are more expensive but I also charge more.” Urslar [As you know from our past reports, Anglophone Cameroon is currently under a huge political crisis. - Check out some news.]

“Farming can help you reduce expenditures a lot, when you have your own food” Esther

“Sometimes it´s difficult to be filling the book and if you carry it to the market it will spoil (Marie)”

[Adviced that followed:]

-          Put it near the bed, doing it before going to sleep or as you wake up (Priscila)

-          Tell the child to remind you every day, as a chore. My own is always reminding me “mommy you did not do your book” (Esther)

 “It´s important to have connections so you are informed of prices.”…  “I was in the market and just introduced myself to some of the women selling. Now before going to Douala I call to ask the prices, Douala is so big, everybody sells there, you can go out thinking that cocoyams are 4000 and next week it will be 2000, so If you don´t know the prices you will lose money big time.” Prenet [Who is going really big right now!]

After reflecting on the state of their businesses we went on to draw business plans and detailed breakdown of things they would buy with an extra business grant. But before doing that, we set our goals trying something new. We asked everybody to state “the amount of money you need to be fine” that is your ideal monthly income. Girls thought of it for a while and gave different figures ranging from the very modest 50,000 francs a month to 300,000 francs a month. Why did we do this? It´s a goal for them and an indicator for us.

Their goal: From the real figure, they set out what do they need to do to achieve this. How much does their business need to grow? Is that business enough to take you there or do you need to complement eventually with other things? Many took their current business as a step in the ladder, to eventually do something bigger like small-scale professional farming.

Our indicator: International poverty line is not enough for us, either adjusted by real prices or taken as it is, it´s too low for us to be comfortable saying we have achieved what we want when a girl is making more than 1.90 $ a day. We wanted a goal for full poverty removal that was ambitious, and that would not put somebody in a scenario where, after breaking out, would fall back in. So now we have two indicators that we are more comfortable with. The self-determined goal of each girl, and the average desired income (roughly 186.000 francs a month, some 350 dollars, note this is a cheap country to live in, most office clerks don´t earn this kind of amount), and we have set a clear line where you are considered “graduated” from the program. Get that monthly profit or more for 6 months straight (as they say, sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down, those are figures that are not far from what some of our best girls have done and are doing, the problem is having it month after month).

 

Now.... how are we going to help them achieve this kind of figure without spending too much on a few girls while so many others still need help? Next year we are going to add microloans back into the mix. Independently of the grants we can provide for them, girls will be able to borrow from us bigger amounts of money at any moment, with restrictions based on their background. (They need to have been with us for a while before borrowing, and after they need to start small and repay back successfully before asking for higher amounts).

So that´s where next year is taking us, we have already drawn up the plan and shared it with the girls. Next report, you will get to know more about our plan, their feedback and, of course, what did they do with this grant.

Sometimes we get so excited about what we do that we forget to say thank you. Sorry for that. Before we were about to disburse the loans, we did think of you.

“As you take this money I want you think of one person. She or he is a normal person, like us, who decided to help you out a bit. Every time you grow, she is with you. Every time you fall, she is with you. I want you to think of the person now, and think also every time things don´t go the right way. Any time you think you are alone, any time temptation is coming for you. Because you are never alone, she is with you. And she wants you to succeed.”

Thanks so much for being there, happy new year.

during meeting
during meeting
Joy
Joy
Jacinta
Jacinta
Prenet and her daugther
Prenet and her daugther
Writing business plans
Writing business plans

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Organization Information

Reach Out NGO

Location: Buea, South West Region - Cameroon
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @reachoutdev1
Project Leader:
Njomo Omam Esther
Executive Director
Buea, South West Region Cameroon
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$21,693 to go
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